Maryland man files class action lawsuit against AOL

A Maryland man who is representing himself has filed a class action lawsuit against AOL, which was formerly known as America Online, for breach of contract. The man claims that AOL customer service representatives misled him about subscription services offered by the company, and he also alleges that AOL’s practices violate Maryland’s consumer protection laws.

The man filed his lawsuit on Oct. 29 at a circuit court in Prince George’s County, but the case was referred to the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland on Nov. 24. The venue of the breach of contract case was changed because the plaintiffs and the defendant reside in different states and the damages being sought are in excess of $5 million.

The man claims that an AOL representative told him that he would have to purchase a subscription membership in order to receive help recovering emails that he had lost when his account was hacked. According to the man, the representative told him that his problem would be resolved during the free first month of the membership. While the man concedes that a number of the lost emails were recovered during this promotional period, he says that the problem was not resolved completely until nine months later. The lawsuit seeks actual and compensatory damages as well as a permanent injunction preventing AOL from selling membership services in the future.

Contract disputes can be complex and costly to litigate, but a proactive approach may sometimes prevent them from occurring at all. Attorneys with experience in this area could scrutinize contracts before they are signed to identify ambiguous, misleading or contentious language that could lead to conflict in the future. Attorneys could also seek ways to settle disputes in order to avoid the inherent uncertainty of court proceedings.

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